The Samsung Galaxy S5 has been officially announced. It’s Samsung’s most important phone for 2014 – and it’s only February. However, is it better than the iPhone 5S? It’s a tricky question as these phones are so different, but here’s how the two compare on first impressions.
Watch our Galaxy S5 video
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S - DesignSamsung Galaxy S5 – Plastic rear
iPhone 5S – Aluminium body
The Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S have different design priorities and different looks. The iPhone 5S is a very petite phone compared with almost all the top-end Android competition, thanks to its much smaller screen.
It also has more immaculate build quality than the Samsung phone, whose body is largely made of plastic with a dimpled back rather than tougher-feeling metal. However, a phone that feels a bit less hard and expensive doesn’t mean it is any less hardy.
While the iPhone 5S survives drop tests very well, plastic naturally absorbs impact damage more than metal – the relative hardness of aluminium means it’ll transmit more of the force to the glass screen. A phone with a crumpled edge is better than one with a shattered screen.
The S5 is both dust and water-resistant to IP67 standards and includes a built-in heart rate monitor at the rear of the device as Samsung continues to show its support for the S Health software it introduced in the S4.
However, the most serious consideration is all about size. We find smaller phones like the iPhone 5S much easier to use in one hand. If the 5-inch Galaxy S5 is to be your first 'giant' phone (think 4.7 inch screen phones and larger), try and get your hands on one in a shop before picking it over an iPhone.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S - ScreenSamsung Galaxy S5 – 5.1-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen
iPhone 5S – 4-inch 1,136 x 640 pixel LCD screen
As we’ve already said, the Samsung Galaxy S5 screen is much larger than the iPhone 5S. It has a 5-inch display that dwarfs the 4-inch display of the iPhone 5S.
The Samsung's resolution is identical to the S4, so you can expect similar levels of sharpness and colourful vibrancy. The iPhone 5S screen is sharp, and with 326ppi it’s not a bad place to watch videos either.
If you’re not a spec nut, though, the most important difference is about size once more. A larger screen offers a much more engrossing game-playing and video-watching experience. It makes a huge difference if you want to watch TV episodes on the train on the way to work, or watch a bit of iPlayer on your phone before bed.
Like all the previous flagship Galaxy phones, the Samsung Galaxy S5 uses an AMOLED screen. This offers great contrast and black level, although the colours of the iPhone 5S look a bit cooler, a bit more natural.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S - CPU and RAMSamsung Galaxy S5 – 2.5 GHz Quad-core processor, 2GB RAM
iPhone 5S – 1.3GHz Apple A7 CPU, 1GB RAM
The Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S both have extremely capable processors. The iPhone 5S has the first 64-bit mobile phone processor, one that destroys all but the highest-end Androids and significantly outperforms the iPhone 5.
The Galaxy S5 has an updated 2.5GHz processor, which we believe (to be confirmed) is the Snapdragon 801. The Snapdragon 800, the chip it supercedes, actually manages to beat the Apple A7 in certain benchmarks, in certain phones, so there can be little doubt the S5 will inch marginally ahead here.
The Galaxy S5 still packs 2GB RAM, which is still more than the iPhone’s 1GB.
In terms of raw power, the Galaxy S5 appears to be the clear winner. Of course, it’s not quite that simple.
The iPhone ecosystem offers more high-end apps and games that can make full use of the power of the phone, where Android has fewer gems to really show off that power. Neither system is all that strong these days, though, with even iPhones relying on a few super high-end games to show off the power of the latest iPhone’s graphical power.
Bottom line: they're both more than powerful enough.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S - SoftwareSamsung Galaxy S5 – Android 4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz
iPhone 5S – iOS 7
The old debate of Android or iPhone is demonstrated pretty clearly in the fight between the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S. Where the iPhone 5S is simple and pretty blank when you first boot it up, the Galaxy S5 is packed with features and additional apps that want to reduce how much extra ‘stuff’ you need to pile into your phone.
They have fairly opposite approaches to apps and integrated features, much as there are many interface similarities between iOS and Android these days. We’re yet to see whether the custom Galaxy S5 interface has long-term knock-on effects on performance, as it had with previous Galaxy phones. It might well, despite all the power and RAM the phone has.
iPhone 5S performance is generally excellent. Some people have issues with battery life, but these are aberrations and the phone’s overall speed and reliability are excellent.
Although we have said that the iPhone 5S has more high-end games to show off its graphical skills, both these phones have pretty great app libraries. We still rank the iTunes App Store higher than Google Play in terms of selection, but both have absolutely massive collections and they’re at the top of developers’ priority lists.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S - Camera
Samsung Galaxy S5 – 16-megapixel with LED flash
iPhone 5S – 8-megapixel 1/3-inch sensor camera with dual-LED flash
Once again, the Galaxy S5 trumps the iPhone 5S in spec terms. It has a 16-megapixel camera while the iPhone 5S has just half that number – eight.
In good lighting, you can expect to get much more detail out of the Galaxy S5’s pictures. However, as not every day is a sunny one, and not all of us rig up our parties with pro lighting gear, actual performance is a different game.
It now offers auto focusing at a super-quick 0.3 seconds and a new Selective Focus mode so you can shoot photos then change the focal point later. It’s similar to the refocus app that’s already available for the Nokia Lumia 1020.
Interestingly, it also includes new Phase Detection Auto Focus technology that is normally found inside DSLR cameras and essentially top improve the speed of focusing and adjusting the focus to increase image sharpness.
The iPhone 5S is a lightning-faster shooter, offers great management of low-light conditions and has a slightly larger sensor than average, giving reasonably large sensor pixels (for a phone). As it has so many more sensor pixels, those of the Galaxy S5 are a bit smaller, which can result in noisier photos.
Still, both photos have put a lot of effort into their flashes. The iPhone 5S has a dual-LED flash with LEDs of different tones – a bright one and a ‘warm’ one designed to stop the flash from ‘whiting out’ people’s faces. The Galaxy S5 has a flash with an integrated reflector to provide more even coverage than a normal one.
One trick the S5 does have up its sleeve is the ability to shoot 4K video at 30fps, although unless you have something suitable to play it back on, it's not going to be all that useful to have.
However, we haven’t had a chance to try out the Galaxy S5 camera yet, so we’ll reserve final judgement until we get to give it a test drive.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S - Fingerprint sensor
Samsung Galaxy S5 - Fingerprint sensor
iPhone 5S - Touch ID
Now we don't want to be the ones to say that Samsung is copying Apple, but we felt that the addition of a fingerprint sensor in the S5 really speaks for itself.
Built into the home button much like it is on the iPhone 5S, the S5 version requires swiping your finger eight times to memorise digits and can store up to three fingerprints at any one time.
Unlike the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5S, Samsung is opening up the technology to third-party apps like PayPal to authorise payments simply by scanning your finger, although the iPhone 5S's scanner lets you pay for app purchases without needing to enter a password.